UK police have formally identified the body of Cardiff striker Emiliano Sala after he was found in plane wreckage in the English Channel on Sunday.
Dorset Police said the families of the Argentinian-born Sala, 28 and the pilot David Ibbotson had been informed before making an official statement.
“The families of Mr Sala and the pilot David Ibbotson have been updated with this news and will continue to be supported by specially trained family liaison officers.
“Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time. ”
#Update The body brought to Portland Port today has been formally identified by HM Coroner for Dorset as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala.
The families of Mr Sala and pilot David Ibbotson have been updated. Our thoughts remain with them all
— Dorset Police (@dorsetpolice) February 7, 2019
Sala, who was not married, had just signed with English Premier League club Cardiff and had completed the details of his transfer only two days earlier.
He was a keen guitarist and renowned bookworm, losing himself in crime and drama fiction not to mention Chinese philosophy, and Cardiff were convinced Sala could be the answer to their own woes in front of goal.
He was flying from Nantes to Cardiff on January 21 when the small aircraft he was the sole occupant in ran into trouble over the English Channel close to Guernsey.
Investigators have not been able to recover the aircraft – found off the coast on Sunday night – which was flying from Nantes to Cardiff after Sala transferred from the French city’s team.
Sala’s career cut short
Cardiff’s deal to sign Sala, who was in the best form of his life, was worth in the region of $27 million, breaking the previous record of $20 million paid for Chilean footballer Gary Medel in 2013.
In order to gain his signature the Bluebirds had to fend off a late big-money bid from China, but Sala was keen to play in the Premier League.
The flight was supposed to be taking him to a new life as a Premier League striker – Cardiff’s record signing and the man they hoped would fire them away from trouble in the fight against relegation.
— Aristide Ntaganira (@AristideNtagan1) February 7, 2019
Born in 1990 in Santa Fe to parents Horacio, a van driver and Mercedes, Sala, an Independiente fan, dreamed of following in the footsteps of Gabriel Batistuta.
He played at youth level for football academy Club Proyecto Crecer aimed at developing young players with the potential to play in Europe.
He eventually signed for Bordeaux in France in 2010 and made his senior debut in 2012 playing loan stints for Orleans, Niort and Caen – his performance there persuaded Nantes to sign him in the summer of 2015. It was in Brittany where his career began to flourish scouring an impressive 42 goals.
The BBC reported on Thursday (Wednesday local time) Cardiff were withholding the $27m transfer fee until they were “satisfied” with the documentation. However, Nantes have already sent Cardiff an invoice for the first of three agreed instalments of $9.2m.
Dignified rescue operation
Remotely operated Vehicles (ROVs) were used in tough conditions to pull the body out of the water in a “dignified” way, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said on Wednesday night.
The body was taken to Portland to be passed over to the Dorset coroner for examination, the AAIB said.
The aircraft remains 67 metres underwater 21 miles off the coast of Guernsey in the English Channel.
“Unfortunately, attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful before poor weather conditions forced us to return the ROV to the ship,” an AAIB spokesman said.
“In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage.
“The operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible and the families were kept informed of progress,” the AAIB said.
The plane had requested to descend before it lost contact with Jersey air traffic control.
An official search operation was called off on January 24 after Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker said the chances of survival following such a long period were “extremely remote”.
The remains of the aircraft were tracked down by a team co-ordinated by ocean scientist David Mearns, who has located some of the most elusive wrecks in the world.